It looks like craft beer. It smells like craft beer. And it tastes…remarkably like craft beer.
Though Hoplark HopTea mirrors many alluring characteristics of an intoxicatingly floral, pleasantly bitter IPA, the nonalcoholic, sugar- and gluten-free, zero-calorie sparkling beverage is, clearly, in a class of its own. Which is why founders Dean Eberhardt and Andrew Markley were pleasantly surprised to earn a robust fan following among fellow beer geeks when HopTea gifted more than 4,000 cans during Denver’s Great American Beer Festival in October.
“It’s all about palate complexity,” says Eberhardt, stressing that HopTea is not targeted to teetotalers. “The idea of a nonalcoholic beer is a very negative market position, whereas we’re just trying to make the coolest iced tea on the market.”
Brewed in 1,000-gallon batches using organic, whole-leaf black, green, or white tea, fragrant Pacific Northwest hops, and pure citrus zest, HopTea has rapidly infiltrated the U.S. market since launching in May 2018. Currently four flagship flavors—ranging from “The Really Hoppy One” (infused with simcoe and citra hops plus 70 mg caffeine) to “The Calm One” (made with non-stimulating chamomile tea)—are sold exclusively at more than 400 Whole Foods Markets nationwide. HopTea’s brewery taproom in Boulder, Colo., pours experimental blends showcasing berries, herbs, and fresh-squeezed juices.
Hot off earning a grand prize at the 2018 BevNet New Beverage Showdown and a 2019 Best New Beverage Award from the Natural Products Expo West, HopTea is entering uncharted territory: direct-to-consumer keg delivery. (Unlike kombucha, refrigeration is unnecessary; iced tea, thankfully, is exempt from strict interstate liquor laws.) The 100-percent-recyclable, “one-way” kegs let HopTea subscribers imbibe anytime.
“A lot of people use it as a lunchtime escape,” Eberhardt notes. Turns out even craft beer aficionados are thirsty for diversity.
Hoplark HopTea Brewery Taproom
3220 Prairie Ave., Boulder, Colo.